A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family,[1] usually in the context of a monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in republics. A dynasty may also be referred to as a "house", "family" or "clan", among others.

Charles I of England and his son, the future James II of England, from the House of Stuart.
The Qing dynasty was the final imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636 and collapsed in 1912.

Historians periodize the histories of many states and civilizations, such as Ancient Iran (3200 – 539 BC), Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BC), Ancient and Imperial China (2070 BC – AD 1912) and Chola Dynasty (300 BC – AD 1279), using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned.

Before the 18th century, most dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as those that follow the Frankish Salic law. In polities where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's family name. This has changed in all of Europe's remaining monarchies, where succession law and conventions have maintained dynastic names de jure through a female.

Dynastic politics has declined over time, owing to a decline in monarchy as a form of government, a rise in democracy, and a reduction within democracies of elected members from dynastic families.[2]


The word dynasty derives from Latin dynastia, which comes from Ancient Greek δυναστεία (dynastéia), meaning 'power', 'dominion', and 'rule'.[3] It was the abstract noun of δυνάστης (dynástēs),[4] the agent noun of δύναμις (dynamis) 'power' or 'ability',[5] from δύναμαι (dýnamai) 'to be able'.[6]


The word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but are, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is also extended to unrelated people, such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team.[1]

The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house",[7] which may be styled as "imperial", "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital" or "baronial", depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.


A ruler from a dynasty is sometimes referred to as a "dynast", but this term is also used to describe any member of a reigning family who retains a right to succeed to a throne. For example, King Edward VIII ceased to be a dynast of the House of Windsor following his abdication.

In historical and monarchist references to formerly reigning families, a "dynast" is a family member who would have had succession rights, were the monarchy's rules still in force. For example, after the 1914 assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife, their son Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, was bypassed for the Austro-Hungarian throne because he was not a Habsburg dynast. Even after the abolition of the Austrian monarchy, Duke Maximilian and his descendants have not been considered the rightful pretenders by Austrian monarchists, nor have they claimed that position.

The term "dynast" is sometimes used only to refer to agnatic descendants of a realm's monarchs, and sometimes to include those who hold succession rights through cognatic royal descent. The term can therefore describe overlapping but distinct sets of people. For example, David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth II, is in the line of succession to the British crown, making him a British dynast. On the other hand, since he is not a patrilineal member of the British royal family, he is therefore not a dynast of the House of Windsor.

Comparatively, the German aristocrat Prince Ernst August of Hanover, a male-line descendant of King George III, possesses no legal British name, titles or styles (although he is entitled to reclaim the former royal dukedom of Cumberland). He was born in the line of succession to the British throne and was bound by Britain's Royal Marriages Act 1772 until it was repealed when the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 took effect on 26 March 2015.[8] Thus, he requested and obtained formal permission from Queen Elizabeth II to marry the Roman Catholic Princess Caroline of Monaco in 1999. Yet, a clause of the English Act of Settlement 1701 remained in effect at that time, stipulating that dynasts who marry Roman Catholics are considered "dead" for the purpose of succession to the British throne.[9] That exclusion, too, ceased to apply on 26 March 2015, with retroactive effect for those who had been dynasts before triggering it by marriage to a Roman Catholic.[8]

Dynastic marriage

A "dynastic marriage" is one that complies with monarchical house law restrictions, so that the descendants are eligible to inherit the throne or other royal privileges. For example, the marriage of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands to Máxima Zorreguieta in 2002 was dynastic, making their eldest child, Princess Catharina-Amalia, the heir apparent to the Crown of the Netherlands. The marriage of his younger brother, Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, in 2003 lacked government support and parliamentary approval. Thus, Prince Friso forfeited his place in the order of succession to the Dutch throne, and consequently lost his title as a "Prince of the Netherlands", and left his children without dynastic rights.


Historians periodize the histories of many states and civilizations, such as Ancient Iran (3200 – 539 BC), Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BC) and Ancient and Imperial China (2070 BC – AD 1912), using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned, and also to describe events, trends and artifacts of that period (e.g., "a Ming dynasty vase"). Until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to expand the wealth and power of his family members.[10]

Before the 18th century, most dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as those that follow the Frankish Salic law. In polities where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's family name. This has changed in all of Europe's remaining monarchies, where succession law and conventions have maintained dynastic names de jure through a female. For instance, the House of Windsor will be maintained through the children of Queen Elizabeth II, as it did with the monarchy of the Netherlands, whose dynasty remained the House of Orange-Nassau through three successive queens regnant. The earliest such example among major European monarchies was in the Russian Empire in the 18th century, where the name of the House of Romanov was maintained through Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna. This also happened in the case of Queen Maria II of Portugal, who married Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, but whose descendants remained members of the House of Braganza, per Portuguese law; in fact, since the 1800s, the only female monarch in Europe who had children belonging to a different house was Queen Victoria and that was due to disagreements over how to choose a non German house. In Limpopo Province of South Africa, Balobedu determined descent matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance. Less frequently, a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multi-dynastic (or polydynastic) system—that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession.


Dynasties lasting at least 250 years include the following. Legendary lineages that cannot be historically confirmed are not included.

Era DynastyLength of rule
660 BCE present Yamato2681 years
3rd Century BCE - 1618 CE[11][12] Pandya 2018 years est.
3rd Century BCE - 1279 CE Chola 1579 years est.
57 BCE 935 CE Sillac.1000 years
950s CE present
(title Tuʻi Tonga to 1865 CE)
Tongac.1068 years
(c.910 years)
c.780 1812 CE Bagrationic.1032 years
c.1700 722 BCE Adaside c.978 years
665 1598 CE Baduspanids933 years
987 1792, 1814 1848 CE Capetian839 years

Sayfawa Dynasty C891-1846(955yrs)

1046256 BCE Zhou (Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou)790 years
862 1598 CE Rurikid736 years
37 BCE 668 CE Goguryeo705 years
1270 1974 CE Solomon704 years
651 1349 CE Bavand dynasty698 years
1299 1922 CE Ottomanc.623 years
1228 1826 CE Ahom598 years
1326 1884 CE Sisodia558 years
1392 1910 CE Joseon and Korean Empire518 years
750 1258 CE Abbasid508 years
1370 1857 CE Timurid487 years
918 1392 CE Goryeo474 years
247 BCE 224 CE Arsacid471 years
1154 1624 CE Nabhani470 years
202 BCE 9 CE, 25 220 CE Han (Western Han and Eastern Han) and Shu Han448 years
858 - 1301 CE Árpád 443 years
224 651 CE Sassanian427 years
1010 586 BCE Davidic424 years
220 638 CE Jafnid418 years
730 330 BCE Achaemenid400 years
661 750, 756 1031 CE Umayyad364 years
1271 1635 CE Yuan and Northern Yuan364 years
1428 1527, 1533 1789 CE Later Lê (Primitive Lê and Revival Lê)355 years
1440 1740, 1765 1806 CE Habsburg341 years
1154 1485 CE Plantagenet330 years
1699 present Bendahara323 years
960 1279 CE Song (Northern Song and Southern Song)319 years
1613 1917 CE Romanov304 years
300 602 CE Lakhmid302 years
916 1218 CE Liao and Western Liao302 years
1616 1912 CE Later Jin and Qing296 years
1368 1662 CE Ming and Southern Ming294 years
305 30 BCE Ptolemaic275 years
618 690, 705 907 CE Tang274 years
909 1171 CE Fatimid262 years
1230 1492 CE Nasrid262 years
1550 1292 BCE Thutmosid258 years

Extant sovereign dynasties

There are 43 sovereign states with a monarch as head of state, of which 41 are ruled by dynasties.[lower-alpha 1] There are currently 26 sovereign dynasties.

Dynasty Realm Reigning monarch Dynastic founder[lower-alpha 2] Dynastic place of origin[lower-alpha 3]
House of Windsor[lower-alpha 4][lower-alpha 5]  Antigua and Barbuda King Charles III King-Emperor George V[lower-alpha 6] Thuringia and Bavaria
(in modern Germany)
 Commonwealth of Australia[lower-alpha 7]
 Commonwealth of The Bahamas
New Zealand[lower-alpha 8]
 Independent State of Papua New Guinea
 Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Solomon Islands
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland[lower-alpha 9]
House of Khalifa  Kingdom of Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Sheikh Khalifa bin Mohammed Najd
(in modern Saudi Arabia)
House of Belgium[lower-alpha 10]  Kingdom of Belgium King Philippe King Albert I[lower-alpha 11] Thuringia and Bavaria
(in modern Germany)
Wangchuck dynasty  Kingdom of Bhutan Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck Bhutan
House of Bolkiah  Brunei Darussalam Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Sultan Muhammad Shah Tarim in Hadhramaut[lower-alpha 12]
(in modern Yemen)
House of Norodom[lower-alpha 13]  Kingdom of Cambodia King Norodom Sihamoni King Norodom Prohmbarirak Cambodia
House of Glücksburg[lower-alpha 14]  Kingdom of Denmark[lower-alpha 15] Queen Margrethe II Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg Glücksburg
(in modern Germany)
 Kingdom of Norway King Harald V
House of Dlamini  Kingdom of Eswatini King Mswati III Chief Dlamini I East Africa
Imperial House of Japan[lower-alpha 16]  Japan Emperor Naruhito Emperor Jimmu[lower-alpha 17] Nara
(in modern Japan)
House of Hashim[lower-alpha 18]  Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan King Abdullah II King Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi Hejaz
(in modern Saudi Arabia)
House of Sabah  State of Kuwait Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Sheikh Sabah I bin Jaber Najd
(in modern Saudi Arabia)
House of Moshesh  Kingdom of Lesotho King Letsie III Paramount Chief Moshoeshoe I Lesotho
House of Liechtenstein  Principality of Liechtenstein Prince Hans-Adam II Prince Karl I Lower Austria
(in modern Austria)
House of Luxembourg-Nassau[lower-alpha 19]  Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Grand Duke Henri Grand Duke Adolphe Nassau
(in modern Germany)
Bendahara dynasty[lower-alpha 20]  Malaysia[lower-alpha 21] Yang di-Pertuan Agong Abdullah Bendahara Tun Habib Abdul Majid Johor
(in modern Malaysia)
House of Grimaldi  Principality of Monaco Prince Albert II François Grimaldi Genoa
(in modern Italy)
'Alawi dynasty  Kingdom of Morocco King Mohammed VI Sultan Abul Amlak Sidi Muhammad as-Sharif ibn 'Ali Tafilalt
(in modern Morocco)
House of Orange-Nassau[lower-alpha 22]  Kingdom of the Netherlands[lower-alpha 23] King Willem-Alexander Prince William I Nassau
(in modern Germany)
House of Busaid  Sultanate of Oman Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Sultan Ahmad bin Said al-Busaidi Oman
House of Thani  State of Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani Sheikh Thani bin Mohammed Najd
(in modern Saudi Arabia)
House of Saud  Kingdom of Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Emir Saud I Diriyah
(in modern Saudi Arabia)
House of Bourbon-Anjou[lower-alpha 24]  Kingdom of Spain King Felipe VI King Philip V Bourbon-l'Archambault
(in modern France)
House of Bernadotte  Kingdom of Sweden King Carl XVI Gustaf King Charles XIV John Pau
(in modern France)
Chakri dynasty  Kingdom of Thailand King Vajiralongkorn King Rama I Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
(in modern Thailand)
House of Tupou  Kingdom of Tonga King Tupou VI King George Tupou I Tonga
House of Nahyan[lower-alpha 25]  United Arab Emirates[lower-alpha 26] President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa Al Nahyan Liwa Oasis
(in modern United Arab Emirates)

Political families

Though in elected governments, rule does not pass automatically by inheritance, political power often accrues to generations of related individuals in the elected positions of republics, and constitutional monarchies. Eminence, influence, tradition, genetics, and nepotism may contribute to the phenomenon.

Family dictatorships are a different concept in which political power passes within a family because of the overwhelming authority of the leader, rather than informal power accrued to the family.

Influential wealthy families

See also


  1. Existing sovereign entities ruled by non-dynastic monarchs include:
  2. The founder of a dynasty need not necessarily equate to the first monarch of a particular realm. For example, while William I was the dynastic founder of the House of Orange-Nassau which currently rules over the Kingdom of the Netherlands, he was never a monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  3. Not to be confused with dynastic seat.
  4. The House of Windsor is descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is a branch of the House of Wettin. The dynastic name was changed from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Windsor" in AD 1917.
  5. A sovereign state with Charles III as its monarch and head of state is known as a Commonwealth realm.
  6. George V was formerly a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha before AD 1917.
  7. Including:
  8. The Realm of New Zealand consists of:
  9. Including: The crown dependencies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey, and the Isle of Man are neither part of the United Kingdom nor British overseas territories.
  10. The House of Belgium is descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is a branch of the House of Wettin. The dynastic name was changed from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Belgium" in AD 1920.
  11. Albert I was formerly a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha before AD 1920.
  12. Claimed by the royal house, but the historicity is questionable.
  13. The House of Norodom is a branch of the Varman dynasty.
  14. The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is a branch of the House of Oldenburg.
  15. Including:
  16. The Imperial House of Japan, or the Yamato dynasty, is the world's oldest continuous dynasty. The dynasty has produced an unbroken succession of Japanese monarchs since the legendary founding year of 660 BC.
  17. Most historians regard Emperor Jimmu to have been a mythical ruler. Emperor Ōjin, traditionally considered the 15th emperor, is the first who is generally thought to have existed, while Emperor Kinmei, the 29th emperor according to traditional historiography, is the first monarch for whom verifiable regnal dates can be assigned.
  18. The House of Hashim is descended from Banu Qatada, which was a branch of the House of Ali.
  19. The House of Luxembourg-Nassau is descended from the House of Nassau-Weilburg, which is a branch of the House of Nassau and the House of Bourbon-Parma.
  20. The Bendahara dynasty is the ruling dynasty of Pahang Darul Makmur and Terengganu. The Sultan of Pahang is the reigning Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.
  21. The throne of Malaysia rotates among the nine constituent monarchies of Malaysia, each ruled by a dynasty. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected by the Conference of Rulers.
  22. The House of Orange-Nassau is a branch of the House of Nassau. Additionally, Willem-Alexander is also linked to the House of Lippe through Beatrix of the Netherlands.
  23. The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of:
  24. The House of Bourbon-Anjou is a branch of the House of Bourbon.
  25. The House of Nahyan is the ruling dynasty of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Emir of Abu Dhabi is the incumbent President of the United Arab Emirates.
  26. The President of the United Arab Emirates is elected by the Federal Supreme Council. The office has been held by the Emir of Abu Dhabi since the formation of the United Arab Emirates in AD 1971.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "dynasty, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1897.
  2. Van Coppennolle, Brenda; Smith, Daniel (2023). "Dynasties in Historical Political Economy" (PDF). The Oxford Handbook of Historical Political Economy.
  3. Liddell, Henry George & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δυναστεία". Hosted by Tufts University's Perseus Project.
  4. Liddell & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δυνάστης".
  5. Liddell & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δύναμις".
  6. Liddell & al. "δύναμαι".
  7. Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. "house, n.¹ and int, 10. b." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2011.
  8. Statement by Nick Clegg MP, UK parliament website, 26 March 2015 (retrieved on same date).
  9. "Monaco royal taken seriously ill". BBC News. London. 8 April 2005. Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  10. Thomson, David (1961). "The Institutions of Monarchy". Europe Since Napoleon. New York: Knopf. pp. 79–80. The basic idea of monarchy was the idea that hereditary right gave the best title to political power...The dangers of disputed succession were best avoided by hereditary succession: ruling families had a natural interest in passing on to their descendants enhanced power and prestige...Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia, Maria Theresa of Austria, were alike infatuated with the idea of strengthening their power, centralizing government in their own hands as against local and feudal privileges, and so acquiring more absolute authority in the state. Moreover, the very dynastic rivalries and conflicts between these eighteenth-century monarchs drove them to look for ever more efficient methods of government
  11. Harman, William. P (1992). The sacred marriage of a Hindu goddess. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 30–6. ISBN 978-81-208-0810-2.
  12. Sathayanatha Iyer (1924). History of the Nayaks of Madura. p. 58.
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